Prospect Ramblings: The Calder race is over… right?

by Hayden Soboleski on March 10, 2019

 

***

Let’s not preface this too much – Elias Pettersson ran away with the Calder race immediately. He has been scoring highlight-reel goals since the beginning of the season, is carrying a team with almost no other offensive presence, and he just doesn’t stop. He’s up to 57 points in 57 games at the time of writing this article. Its rare that a rookie holds on to the “Calder favorite” tag even after missing a chunk of games with injury, but Pettersson did. The award is all but inscribed at this point.

 

But there have been rumblings lately that the race isn’t won just yet, thanks to the St Louis Blues winning 22 of their last 30 games and the man in net for 16 of those wins: Jordan Binnington.

 

At one point, he went undefeated in 9 straight. In 22 games, he’s holding a 0.929 SV% and a 16-3-1 record. The Blues have 15 games remaining, and if we assume he splits the back-to-backs but starts the rest, he could end the season with a total of 34 games played as a rookie goaltender. Even if he sustains his outstanding save percentage, is this enough to really challenge Petterson for the Calder?

 

The last goaltenders to win the award were Steve Mason in 2008-09, and Andrew Raycroft in 2003-04. Those netminders played in 61 and 57 games, and had 31 and 29 wins, respectively. So there isn’t exactly a precident for a goaltender to win the award without significantly more time in the crease than Binnington could possibly see. With an outrageous run of victories, he could potentially get close to their win totals, which would really help his case.

Mason was an enormous factor in driving the Blue Jackets to the playoffs that season, just like we’re seeing this year. With Vancouver unlikely to make the cut and St. Louis looking like a dangerous steamroller thanks to his momentum, could voters play the “season-saver” card with the young netminder? 

As it turns out, there isn’t much of a precedent for this either. It affected Mason’s award, but his 0.916 SV% in 61 games was impressive regardless. But since then, only half the trophy winners were on playoff teams. Out of that crop, the only one who had the potential to play the “season-saver”/”team-carrier” card was Auston Matthews in 2016-17, but again, his numbers were impressive enough that he would have won regardless of clinching a wild-card spot. The takeaway here is that in the history of the Calder voting, driving a team to the playoffs does not put contestants over the top.

There’s one more factor here that Blues fans, Canucks haters, and goalie-lovers could play – the fact that Pettersson has also not played a full season. Thanks to two separate injuries, he has missed a total of 11 games off the Canucks’ schedule, capping his maximum games-played this season at 71. Since the lockout, the most games a winner has missed is 4 (Malkin back in 2006-07). We still remember McDavid missing out on rookie-of-the-year status thanks to missing 36 games in 2015-16, and last year the race was neck-and-neck until Boeser’s injury took him out for 20 games, during which Barzal kept lighting the lamp.

This last point is where things look grim for Binnington’s chances – even if Pettersson got injured tonight and missed the rest of the season, he would likely still finish the year as the top-scoring rookie. His closest competition is Rasmus Dahlin who has sneakily hit 37 points on the year so far.  

 

The facts above show clearly in Petterson’s favor:

  • Binnington isn’t even close to the games-played totals of previous goalies to win the award,
  • Taking your team to the playoffs (even as a major contributor) doesn’t seem to sway voters significantly,
  • Even with time missed to injury, Pettersson is the runaway scoring leader. 

 

I’m extremely thankful that the race is getting even a little tighter. As a prospect writer, I want every Calder race to be as close as possible. But this year, the only way Pettersson loses is if he misses the rest of the season, and Binnington wins every remaining start to get a win total on par with previous goalie winners (and if that’s the timeline we end up with, I hope that Dahlin also lights it up in Pettersson’s imaginary absence to make it a true 3-way race to the end).

 

 

***

FIRST NHL GOALS TIME!

 

The first of many for Filip Zadina came on a beautiful PP one-timer:

 

Philippe Myers is either in shock or has a master deadpan after his first:

 

Nathan Bastian keeps his eye on the puck to tip this one through:

 

Jaycob Megna has been playing pro a long time, so great to see him get his first in the big league:

 

Last but not least, Max Jones shows why you don’t let talented players hold onto the puck for this long:

 

***

Thank you for reading, and best of luck as fantasy playoff season is in full swing!

Hayden Soboleski

@soboleskih